Game on: gamers beat scientists at modelling proteins

Stand back scientists: gamers have beaten highly qualified crystallographers, undergraduates and even computer algorithms at creating an accurate model on a protein, based on its biochemical data.
A team of scientists in America pitted the participants of the study against each other. In one corner, two highly trained crystallographers, in another, 61 undergraduate students using computer modelling programs, in the third, two computer algorithms, and in the last corner, 469 gamers playing a game called Foldit.
All they had to do was create a model of…

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Meteorites solve a mystery of life?

In the lab, two chemical products are normally made. The product is a racemic mixture, meaning that it is composed of molecules which are structurally identical, but which are mirror images of each other. Mysteriously, in biological processes, only one of these mirror images is made.

The pair of mirror molecules are called enantiomers, and arise from the chirality of the molecule. If a molecule is chiral, its mirror image is not superimposable onto the original molecule. A reaction gives one or both mirror images, which are labelled right handed (D enantiomers) or left handed (L enantiomers). In nature, normally only the right handed version of any sugars, and the left handed enantiomer of any amino acids is made, allowing the reactions within the body to be so selective.

But where does this homochirality come from? Analysis…

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DNA’s hidden talents: From Diodes to Data Storage

Your DNA controls the structure of your whole body, how it works, and even who you are. It stores an immense amount of data, and it turns out that’s not all it can do.

Scientists from the Universities of Negev and Georgia have created a diode, an electronic component which allows current to flow in one direction, but stops it in the other, from DNA. It is only 11 base pairs long, and about 4 nm in length. What makes it so special is…

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